Monday, 14 December 2015

Under-utilization of Geographical Location of Pakistan

In the present global economy, a state’s economy particularly export oriented economy flourishes through better competitiveness in terms of, among others factors, availability of cheap energy and economical access to the markets. Pakistan, due to its geographical location, can provide India with better competitiveness in terms of these two factors i.e. availability of cheap energy from the Central Asia and economical access to the markets of Central Asia and beyond.  With the signing of recent Taipei Gas Project- regarding supply of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and to India through Pakistan- Pakistan has offered India availability of cheap energy. But, in return, Pakistan has got nothing from India except an overture from India for better relations with Pakistan. Keeping in view past history of Pak-India relations, India may back out from its commitments easily- particularly regarding Kashmir- but it would not be easy for Pakistan to block supply of gas to India in the presence of a legal agreement in this regard. It seems as if Pakistan is being deprived of benefits of its geographical location.
Presently India’s economy is growing with good pace, but India may not continue with this growth pace, particularly in its exports, without economical access to new markets and availability of new resources of cheap energy. It may be appreciated that strategic importance of a country depends more on growing export economy than on growing internal economy because it is export economy which enables a state to amass foreign reserves which can be utilized to gain strategic influence in import-export partners as well as in other states. It may also be appreciated that natural gas is considered among the cheapest source of energy. India is most desperate country to have access to such cheap sources of energy in its quest for competitive export advantages in the face of growing competition from other competitors, particular from China. It is also a known fact that India is pressurizing Pakistan to grant trade transit route to India through Pakistan to Afghanistan and beyond. Such a trade transit route offered to India through Pakistan, coupled with Taipei Project would add to strategic strength of India in the region at the cost of Pakistan.
We have already seen in the article that China is competing India in seven out of ten top Indian exports. If China is given an extra competitive edge in terms of distance from the import countries, and availability of cheap inputs, China can oust India from the export markets of those seven Indian exports. We also have seen that C-PEC can provide China with the required extra competitive edge against India, if China opts to set up, in Pakistan, industries regarding those seven exportable products, and exports those products through the Gawadar Port. The C-PEC has provided Pakistan with opportunities to reduce Indian strategic influence in the region and the world at large in near future. It should be strategy of Pakistan to develop C-PEC, with a view to reduce strategic importance of India in the region and the world at large. Given the geographical location of India, it may be appreciated that it would be preferable for India to enhance its commercial and military interests into the region of South Asia, Central Asia and the Gulf; the same are the areas which are center of economic and military interests of Pakistan. India is a natural rival of Pakistan’s strategic interests in the region. A militarily and economically stronger India would claim for space of strategic influence in the region at the cost of Pakistan. Taipei Project, coupled with trade transit route to India through Pakistan to Afghanistan and beyond would add to economic and strategic strength of India in the region, and as such these projects are not in line with strategic interests of Pakistan.
 Two enemy states may benefit each other economically; but no state gives such economic benefits to its enemy, which may be turned into  strategic advantage by the enemy state. Strategic interests of a nation are those long term interests which are in line with national sentiments and aspirations of a nation; Ruling nations always tend to achieve glory, obviously at the cost of their competitors/rivals. Pakistan and India are no exception; they would also tend to achieve glory at each other’s cost. No amount of economic interests and no degree of commonality of economic interests is supposed to force Pakistan and India to abandon their sentiments and aspirations of glory, and both would try to achieve that glory at each other’s cost because they happen to be each other’s rival; this is what is their natural strategic interest.  Because Pakistan and India share the region where they aspire to achieve glory, they are natural rival (China and Pakistan are not rival because they do not share areas where they aspire glory). The commonality of economic interests (though it does not exist; even if it exists) is not supposed to make Pakistan forego their strategic interests.  The Taipei Project, and grant of trade transit route to India through Pakistan to Afghanistan and beyond- even if these projects are based on commonality of economic interests of Pakistan and India- would be contradictory to strategic interests of Pakistan.
The best option for Pakistan is to seek from India an offset of what strategic advantage India has got out of Taipei Project; such an offset may be got by getting India to declare that Jammu and Kashmir State is a disputed territory whose fate is yet to be decided. If India is not ready to settle Kashmir Dispute, Pakistan should not think in terms of giving any strategic advantage to India and should amend this project to exclude India from it before it starts.
Various proposed settlements put forth through backdoor channel, regarding Kashmir Dispute, fall short of a Kashmir annexing either to Pakistan or India; such proposed settlements do not envisage any change in existing boundaries of India and Pakistan. Falling short of changing the existing boundaries of both states, any solution of Kashmir Dispute would not worth of giving India any strategic advantage as a compensation. Pakistan may better wait for ten years so that fruits of C-PEC may accrue to Pakistan. The C-PEC may become a vibrant tool to reduce India’s exports, as mentioned above. Once India’s exports do not remain competitive in international markets, the trend of foreign direct investment to India would also be plunged which would further damage India’s economy. Coupled with economic downslide, strategic importance of India would also be tarnished in the region irreparably. All these factors combined may force India to come to terms with Pakistan on Kashmir Dispute, and India, in a bid to restore its economy and strategic position, may become more prone to accept Pakistan’s demand to settle Kashmir Dispute more on Pakistan's terms.
We may conclude that Pakistan should make every effort to make the best utilization of its geographical location. Any agreements extending India economic, turned strategic, advantages at the regional level, without achieving any parallel strategic advantage, would be entirely against the strategic interests of Pakistan, and as such should be avoided. Pakistan’s strategic interests should be given primacy over the short sighted economic interests because these are the strategic interests which better serve the national interests than the short sighted economic interests.

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